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Carbon-cutting scheme enters new phase

A carbon-cutting scheme in South Tyneside that will draw geothermal heat from abandoned flooded coal mines has progressed after plans for an energy centre were backed by the council.

Planning permission has been granted for the two-storey building and underground pipe network that will form part of the Hebburn Minewater Scheme.

The energy centre will house the water pumps and other plant equipment which will extract the minewater and convert it into useable heat, which will then be distributed to council-owned buildings in the town centre through a 272-metre-llong network of pipes.

The centre, designed by FaulknerBrowns Architects, will have a viewing platform to allow visitors to get first-hand experience of the process, which is expected to cut annual carbon emissions by hundreds of tonnes.

Cllr Ernest Gibson, lead member with responsibility for climate change, said: “The energy centre will be located right in the heart of the town. The water extracted from the mines will be fed in and converted into low carbon and sustainable heat for local buildings, including a residential tower block.

“Investing in the natural environment is one of South Tyneside Council’s key priorities, with a target of carbon neutrality by 2030. This scheme is going to make a significant contribution to a cleaner, greener Borough.”

Construction of the energy centre and pipe network is expected to get underway in late Spring and Vital Energi has been appointed to carry out the work.

The centre will be named after the late professor Paul Younger, an internationally-renowned scientist who was born in Hebburn.

Cllr Ernest Gibson added: “Paul was eminent in his field and was ahead of his time, championing this kind of minewater technology many years ago.”

In Autumn 2021 the project reached a milestone when target mineworking’s were hit at a depth of 291m.

Testing also revealed that the temperature of the minewater is warmer than anticipated, which will result in significantly higher annual carbon savings than previous estimates of 319 tonnes.